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Steven Gerrard enthused despite Villa defeat after 'scaring' Manchester City

Steven Gerrard told his Villa players to keep their heads held high after providing Manchester City 'a scare' despite a 2-1 home defeat.

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard

The new Villa chief was dealt his first reverse in charge as Pep Guardiola's champions made it six wins on the spin in all competitions.

Ruben Dias struck from distance and Bernardo Silva lashed a goal of the season contender in on the volley to make it 2-0 at the break, but Gerrard felt the scoreline flattered the visitors at the interval.

Ollie Watkins struck back immediately after the restart and Villa came close to forcing a leveller as teenage substitute Carney Chukwuemeka was denied one-on-one by Ederson after Ezri Konsa had a penalty appeal turned down by VAR.

The night was billed as £100million man Jack Grealish's first return to Villa Park and the former skipper played the final three minutes after being introduced to a chorus of boos mixed with applause.

Gerrard felt his side recovered expertly from a lack of belief in the opening stages and roared back to hand City a real test.

He said: "I thought after the first 10 or 15 minutes we started to show some real belief and courage. We had some real decent passages of play throughout the first half.

"We conceded a couple of goals when we were in a good place, which is disappointing.

"But in the second half I thought we were outstanding, we really – at times – scared City, because we were so close to taking something out the game. The big moments in the second half certainly came our way.

"It was a terrific reaction second half from the players, I told them not to leave this stadium with their heads down at all, I was really pleased with what I saw from large parts."

The Villa chief added: "I think it (City's bright start) was a combination of things, City started ever so well, you can see the quality, class, positions they take up, we have to respect what we're playing.

"But I just thought we were in a little bit of a shell in the first 10 or 15 minutes. Once we did put some passes together and believe in ourselves we had some real good opportunities on the break to hurt City.

"We created some decent set-piece opportunities, so to come in at 2-0 down was slightly harsh, I thought, but City have done class pieces of play themselves."

Gerrard hailed the contribution of goalscorer Watkins, who made it two goals in three games under the new boss.

He said: "I don't think there is a limit, that's not me saying that because he's now my striker, I'm saying it because I've seen him for two weeks on a daily basis.

"He's got the lot, pace, power, he runs in behind, his hold-up play is really good, he's aggressive, he can occupy two defenders.

"I think he's really stepped up and stepped forward in the two weeks that I've seen him, I'm absolutely delighted with him and I think he can get better and grow even more, I think he'll enjoy playing this style, so I don't think there is a ceiling or limit, I think he'll continue to grow."

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